Corona chronicles from Denmark: Day 1 of quarantine

It is around 10:00 on March 11th, and we have just landed in the Copenhagen airport from Malaysia oblivious to what is yet to come and how lucky we are to have returned home exactly on the eve of the nationwide lockdown.

Following the news half-way across the world, you could sense that the corona hype had definitely intensified over the last week on the European continent. Back in Malaysia things were rather quiet, life seemed to run its natural course. There was one omnipresent addition of course – the disinfection gels that were seen everywhere you entered – from restaurants to shopping malls to metro stations. From time to time they would also check your temperature – at important gathering points, such as airports and office buildings.

Landing in Copenhagen via Amsterdam, no one cared to check temperature of arriving passengers. The only thing rude Dutch border control was interested in was to harass newly arrived, sleepy passengers into producing their passports for check just the moment you stepped out of the plane. One wonders about priorities, right??? As if a Schengen visa, an EU residency card or even better, a coveted passport from an EU land would somehow provide you with a magic antibody against a nasty virus that seems to be bringing the world to its knees. After more than 2 hours of delay stuck on a grounded plane in Amsterdam, finally we reach Copenhagen. Same story here – passport check performed by much more pleasant Danish border control right out of the plane. No need for temperature check. It is indeed bewildering…

Finally home and onto a packed agenda for the day you don’t have time to follow the news much. Things seem to be OK. The number of infected people in Denmark has doubled from the previous day and reached over 500. I decide to work from home for the rest of the week not feeling particularly calm taking the public transport to work. Little did I know that a few hours later the big lockdown of the country would commence…

IMG_8767We go for an evening stroll by the lakes. The sunrise is beautiful, the air is mild and you can feel the touch of spring everywhere. My favourite daffodils are blooming, crocus are out, trees are starting to turn green, birds are chirping.

IMG_8770In the evening, the Danish government announces that all educational institutions are to be closed, sending home all public employees that are not performing critical functions and advising private companies to do the same. One thing that was specifically emphasised was that the people of Denmark should not worry about food, there is plenty of that. What do some hear instead? I need to run to the supermarket right away and hoard all the food I can. To hell with precautions and not gathering too many people in one place. The two essential hoarding items are:

  1. Toilet paper!
  2. Yeast

It is hard to comprehend this panic reaction and especially the toilet paper. Lack of rational thinking in times of fear is a fascinating topic of study I am sure. Before long the Internet is filled with amusing photo and video footage of people standing in long queues in supermarkets proud of their purchases. There emerges even some fighting over toilet paper, surely inspired by the Aussies.

Overnight there lands a mail in my mailbox. We are to work from home until March 30th. And this is how the home quarantine starts.

Photos © Andreas Eriksen

Colours of autumn in Landbohøjskolens Have

Weekend strolls in Copenhagen in this magical autumn time have become a fast tradition. Today we ended up in a small, beloved spot – Landbohøjskolens Have. The place is magical no matter the season. And now it is all dressed up in a colourful autumn gown looking dashingly beautiful.

Red red red

Red curtain made of dreams

Yellow curtain made of dreams

Yellow curtain made of dreams

Iberian lyng

Iberian lyng

Splash of autumn magic

Splash of autumn magic

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Patterns of nature

Patterns of nature

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Photos © Ani Movsisyan

Colours of autumn in Frederiksberg Garden

Another magical autumn day out and about in Copenhagen. This time the colours of autumn captured in Frederiksberg Have.

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Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Colours of autumn in Botanical Garden

Copenhagen. Botanical Garden. October. Rainy-sunny-rainy-sunny-rainy day.

Reflections

Reflections

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Nature frames nature

Nature frames nature

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Photos © Ani Movsisyan

In a Danish countryside straight out of a H.C. Andersen fairytale

Welcome to a Danish fairytale!

Welcome to the Danish home of Cinderella!

It is a crisp, autumn day. One of those when the cold cuts the air like a sword, yet the sun dazzles you with its endless charm. The summer ended far too soon this year and even though we have just said goodbye to September only a few days ago, the temperatures have taken a quick drop to single digits. The weather gods behave like they are in a stock exchange playing random games with the seasons.

It is not a Windows desktop background, just a typical countryside scene from a Danish countryside

It is not a Windows desktop background, just a typical scene from a Danish countryside

Oh but the sun, that glorious fireball of joy, it is shining so beautifully today spreading its soft rays in the sky deep blue like the ocean waters. Perfect for a little road trip down south into the charming Danish countryside.

Days like this makes you fall in love with Denmark all over again

Days like this makes you fall in love with Denmark all over again

Gisselfeld Kloster says the destination on our GPS. It wasn’t even on the agenda for the day, yet it turned out to be the absolute highlight of the trip. The road leading to it is straight out of a Danish countryside dream – rolling farm fields, wind turbines, deep forests and chirping birds. Now take it all and throw in a splash of autumn colours accentuated in the sunset glow and you have got yourself a beautiful postcard.

Colours of autumn

Colours of autumn

DO01055476Tucked away in the south of Sjælland, an hour drive away from København, Gisselfeld castle is fortunately not on the major tourist radar at least not for now. Reaching there as the sun was about to set, we got the entire castle grounds to ourselves. I read somewhere that H.C. Andersen got his inspiration for the Ugly Duckling fairytale while a guest in the castle grounds. Who can blame him?

This path is made up of dreams  <3

This path is made up of dreams. It makes you want to put on your princess gown and run down the path towards your prince charming 

A small unassuming wooden gate guards the treasure that lies inside. Carefully opening the tiny gate you walk straight into a fairytale. Deserted castle grounds, surrounded by immaculate gardens, moats clear as mirrors, sun touching the surfaces softly, casting a golden glow on everything it touches, swans gliding gracefully on the tranquil waters, and not a single soul in sight, but one lonely fisherman navigating the lake in his small boat.

Gisselfeld Kloster

Gisselfeld Kloster – straight out of a fairytale

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Can this scene get any more romantic? Pinch me – this is not a dream.

I see you, pretty ball of joy

I see you, pretty ball of joy

Feel like the Cinderella carriage will roll onto the cobblestones any minute now

It feels like the Cinderella carriage will roll onto the cobblestones any minute now

This window though - can it get any dreamier

This window though – can it get any dreamier

The Ugly Duckling navigating the castle grounds

The Ugly Duckling navigating the castle grounds

Every single piece in this castle is a dream

Every single element in this castle makes you feel like you have stepped right into a fairytale

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Take my hand and walk into the fairytale.

Take my hand and walk into the fairytale <3

Photos © Ani Movsisyan & Andreas Eriksen

A recipe for a beautiful day in Copenhagen

Pretty roses glowing with drops of rain

Having a ladybug land on my hand, meeting white deer first time ever!, walking towards a double rainbow under a pouring rain and smiling sun. All in one day. Copenhagen – my beautiful home, you are full of prettiness 💕

After quite an intensely busy week, I desperately needed some unwinding time that didn’t involve sitting in front  of a computer and working on items from long to do lists. Instead it needed to be full of long walks in a good company and my trusty Leica to capture beautiful moments on the lens. It seemed that the weather gods joined the cause to cheer me up by clearing the thick grey skies over Copenhagen, whooshing away the howling winds and sending some beautiful autumn sun.

After some impromptu planning with an Indian colleague of mine, Rashika, we decided to start our Saturday bright and early with a lovely breakfast at a Vesterbro favourite – Mad og Kaffe. To get to enjoy a delicious breakfast at this place without having to wait in long, winding queues, you practically have to appear there when the doors open at 08:30 sharp. That is exactly what we did.

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Tummies full and smiling, we headed towards Klampenborg for a day in the nature and beautiful autumn walks in Dyrehaven deer park.

First things first though. Pre-walk coffee and dessert to sweeten up the walk. Rashika got her first taste of traditional Danish pastry – hindbærsnitter (rasperry slices) at Cranks & Coffee. If you are a bike lover, you will appreciate this hyggelig hangout place by Klampenborg station.

If you are a bike lover, you will appreciate this cute little hangout place by Klampenborg station

If you are a bike lover, you will appreciate this hyggelig hangout place by Klampenborg station

Breakfast check, coffee check, hindbærsnitter check. Let the walk begin.

House dreams

Prettiest townhouses making you feel for a moment that you are in London

Lavender dreams - you never fail to put a smile on my face

Lavender dreams – you never fail to put a smile on my face

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Rashika enjoying the Danish nature on her way to Dyrehaven

Rashika enjoying the Danish nature on her way to Dyrehaven

Dyrehaven

Dyrehaven

Idyllic corner in pretty light

Idyllic corner in pretty light

Leaves, leaves, leaves

Leaves, leaves, leaves

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After 2 hours of walking in Dyrehaven, we finally spotted the first deer!

After 2 hours of walking in Dyrehaven, we finally spotted the first deer!

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Suddenly an entire flock of deer appeared with a few white deer, which I have never ever seen before.

Suddenly an entire flock of deer appeared with a few white deer, which I have never ever seen before.

Double rainbow shot up the sky after an hour long rain just as we were headed back to  the city

Double rainbow shot up the sky after an hour long rain just as we were headed back to the city

Photos © Ani Movsisyan

Day 16 on Trans-Siberian Railway: Irkutsk –> Ulanbaatar

Good morning from Irkutsk :)

Good morning from Irkutsk :)

It is an early, early morning. I try to ignore the alarm, hoping, wishing it would go off and let me get back to the world made up of dreams. Not much luck there. The last stretch of the Trans-Siberian is calling us. I guess it is time to say do svedanye (so long) Russia! You have been a real charm. Next stop – Mongolia. First there is still 22 hours and 37 minutes to be spent in the train.

Train timetable - so many destinations to choose from

Train timetable – so many destinations to choose from

Second from the top is our train coming all the way from Moscow and going all the way to Beijing. If you do it non-stop, it will take you around 7 days.

Russian comfort replaced by made in China

Russian comfort replaced by made in China. The official emblem looks so cool though.

Bye-bye Russian comfort, hello Chinese class. From here on China is officially taking over the Trans-Siberian stretch. Judging by the look and feel of the train interior, let’s just say it is good it’s only one day. The exterior – that’s another thing. I am totally loving the sleek green colour and the Chinese communist emblem.

Aboard the train another peculiar fact makes itself known – the serious looking, sometimes smiling female provodnitsa (train attendants) you see all along the Trans-Siberian stretch from Moscow to Irkutsk have all disappeared. No trace of them except the ones working in the restaurant. Instead you meet male Chinese attendants, who as you come to observe are more in favour of keep calm – take a break attitude, than actually doing their train chores.

Modernish amenities of Russian trains with more advanced A/C system are out the window.

Modernish amenities of Russian trains with more advanced A/C system are gone out the window.

Modernish amenities of Russian trains with more advanced A/C system are gone out the window. It is replaced by a more simplistic design of a revolving fan that makes so much noise, you really need to be desparate to turn it on. On a hot July day we were desparate. Fortunately after some time you get used to the constant background buzzing noise and stop noticing it.

Our neighbour is Mongolian speaking no Russian or English. Only Mongolian and Magyar, since she is living in Hungary. Not much chance of communication going on there. I call Google to help for general introduction. Otherwise it is just exchanging smiles and sharing my precious stash of sunflower seeds. Chewing sunflower seeds is also apparently popular among Mongolians.

An insider tip - make sure you wipe the window close to your train compartment before the train sets off for the long journey east and south.

An insider tip – make sure you wipe the window close to your train compartment before the train sets off for the long journey east and south.

While I chat away with a Canadian girl who has spent the last 6 days on the train all the way from Moscow, I notice Andreas hard at work shining the window. Then I remember – he was preparing for this stretch since home equipped with a wiping cloth. An insider tip – make sure you wipe the window close to your train compartment before the train sets off for the long journey east and south. Trust me you will not regret it. What is waiting for you is simply the BEST stretch of the whole 5.000 km Trans-Siberian ride. When the train rides south approaching the shore of Lake Baikal, hits its southermost point and makes a curvy turn and hits northward toward Ulan-Ude. On this stretch panoramic vistas of Lake Baikal become your companion.

IMG_1011Shining the window situation mostly applies to when the temperature hits the freezing degrees so you don’t want to risk catching pneumonia and opening the window. In the warm summer months we discovered that the Chinese attendant can unlock the small overhead windows.

IMG_3843When the most awaited moment finally arrives, everyone leaves the comfort of their compartments and gets glued to the windows. The narrow train corridor becomes a melting pot of nations, languages and cultures. Chinese, Mongolians, Europeans, Americans, everyone is gazing out.

IMG_3850As the train approaches Ulan-Ude, the lake views slowly disappear and are replaced by endless forests again. It is time to hit the restaurant before we reach the Mongolian border where we are told that they are going to detach the carriage housing the Russian restaurant so we better feast on our usual Russian delicacies of borsch and fried potatoes before they are left behind on the other side of the border.

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To reach the restaurant cabin you literally have to go from one end of the train to the other, opening and closing doors. One of the doors you open, welcomes you to the first class world, mainly populated by Americans. I am wondering if there is any system or a pure draw of luck that decides which of the attendants gets to make the first class carriage his base. That guy is definitely enjoying the experience. Lounging in his cabin with a cigarette in his mouth, despite the fact that it is a non-smoking train.

First class luxury - fancy, fancy

First class luxury – fancy, fancy

Sleeping cabin that also comes with a shower

Sleeping cabin that also comes with a shower

The restaurant is more multicultural compared to the other trains we took across the Trans-Siberian.

Borsch - our usual

Borsch – our usual

We go with our usual favourites – the borsch and blini. As he carefully studies the menu, a happy smile appears on Andreas’ face. Apparently he found his childhood favourite dessert – peach compote with whipped cream. Of course he needs to have it. My feeble attempt at we just had a blini with jam, do we also need to order this, gets totally ignored. Childhood memories – what can you do? 😀

Dessert from Andreas' childhood

Dessert from Andreas’ childhood

Hours roll by. Soon the bright summer day is replaced by an evening dusk and voila we reach the Russia-Mongolia border. What happens next is 4 hours on the border. 2 hours on the Russian side and 2 hours on the Mongolian. First Russian border control comes in dressed in full uniforms and armed with dogs, collects passports and disappears for 2 hours. Promising start. Passports are returned with beautiful stamps in, only to be snatched away again 30 minutes later by the Mongolian border control ladies who are less cheerful than their Russian counterparts. By the time we get our passports back it is already past midnight. The train is now cleared to continue its journey onto the Mongolia grasslands.

I get minimum amount of sleep lulled by the train noise. Waking up every so often, I give up when the beautiful light of the dawn hits our cabin. Opening the compartment door a totally different view greets you. Gone are the lush taiga forests of Russia. The vast grasslands of Mongolia welcome you to a whole new country.

Good morning Mongolia!

Good morning Mongolia!

It is a whole new day and a start of our week in Mongolia. Russia you have been such a charm, opening the doors to your beautiful country for us and showing us pretty corners along the 5.000 km stretch from Moscow to Ulan-Ude. It has also put my Russian language skills to test, I haven’t spoken so much Russian since high school. Pretty proud of myself. So long Russia, we will be back to explore more of your beauty for sure. Until then cайн уу (sain uu) Mongolia!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan